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Music

Maggie Rogers: Light On

Monday, 21 January, 2019

In the depths of deep midwinter, light is needed more than ever. Step forward young Maggie Rogers, who grew up along the banks of the Miles River in Easton, Maryland, and began playing harp at age seven, focusing on the music of Holst and Vivaldi. The single “Light On” was released on 10 October last year and it can be found on her major-label debut album, Heard It In a Past Life, which hit the streams last Friday. Lights on!


The twelfth post of pre-Christmas 2018: December

Monday, 24 December, 2018

And thus ends our review of the year as posted by Rainy Day since 1 January this year. The last post in this pre-Christmas 2018 series dates from 10 December and it was titled, “Street Fighting Man in Paris, then and now.” The reason for picking this post are twofold: firstly, the mouvement des gilets jaunes, which has exposed the hollowness at the heart of Emmanuel Macron’s own “movement” and, secondly, the 50th anniversary of Street Fighting Man by the Rolling Stones. There is a synchronicity, as Jung would say.

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Fifty years ago, the Rolling Stones released their Beggars Banquet album. It contained what’s been called the group’s “most political song,” Street Fighting Man. Mick Jagger said that he found partial inspiration for the song in the violence among student rioters in Paris during the run up to the civil unrest of May 1968. Quote:

“It was a very strange time in France. But not only in France but also in America, because of the Vietnam War and these endless disruptions … I thought it was a very good thing at the time. There was all this violence going on. I mean, they almost toppled the government in France; de Gaulle went into this complete funk, as he had in the past, and he went and sort of locked himself in his house in the country. And so the government was almost inactive. And the French riot police were amazing.”

To mark the 50th anniversary of Street Fighting Man, the band have released a video of the song featuring the lyrics. Uncannily, this is again a strange time in France. Whether M. Macron will go into a complete funk and lock himself into his house in the country remains to be seen. Those French riot police are still amazing, though.

Tomorrow, here, something less disruptive: Christmas Day as seen through the eyes of a poet who was once six Christmases of age.


The third post of pre-Christmas 2018: March

Saturday, 15 December, 2018

The review of the year as echoed in Rainy Day posts continues with our 15 March reflection on the magisterial uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn. “For he had gone alone into the island / And brought back the whole thing,” as his great friend, the poet Seamus Heany, wrote. And, indeed, Liam O’Flynn brought back the whole legacies of Leo Rowsome, Willie Clancy and Seamus Ennis for future generations of pipers. RIP.

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Fulsome are the tributes that have been published following the death yesterday of the uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn. And deservedly so, as he was unique. That mastery of an ancient tradition imbued him with the confidence to place his music before a restless, modern audience demanding progress but still wishing to retain some links with the past and the enthusiastic resonance — from Clonnmel to Copenhagen — ensured the success of the groundbreaking group Planxty.

Liam O’Flynn was charming and erudite, witty and cultured, polite and professional and, above all, human. Those fortunate enough to have known him know how much he’ll be missed. At this time, it’s appropriate to paraphrase C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed: “His absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”

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Tomorrow, here, the fourth post of pre-Christmas 2018. One of our most fascinating April subjects was the notorious Silicon Valley scam artist, Elizabeth Holmes.


Street Fighting Man in Paris, then and now

Monday, 10 December, 2018

Fifty years ago, the Rolling Stones released their Beggars Banquet album. It contained what’s been called the group’s “most political song,” Street Fighting Man. Mick Jagger said that he found partial inspiration for the song in the violence among student rioters in Paris during the run up to the civil unrest of May 1968. Quote:

“It was a very strange time in France. But not only in France but also in America, because of the Vietnam War and these endless disruptions … I thought it was a very good thing at the time. There was all this violence going on. I mean, they almost toppled the government in France; de Gaulle went into this complete funk, as he had in the past, and he went and sort of locked himself in his house in the country. And so the government was almost inactive. And the French riot police were amazing.”

To mark the 50th anniversary of Street Fighting Man, the band have released a video of the song featuring the lyrics. Uncannily, this is again a strange time in France. Whether M. Macron will go into a complete funk and lock himself into his house in the country remains to be seen. Those French riot police are still amazing, though.


Jupiter Falling: We Get Fooled Again and Again

Tuesday, 4 December, 2018

Last year, the European elites warned the “deplorables” of France, les sans-culottes, and their better-off relations in la bourgeoisie, that if they didn’t vote for the elitist candidate, they would have to endure le deluge. So, they did and thus was M. Macron elected president. He said he wanted to rule as a ‘Jupiter’, above the political fray, but les gilets jaunes have brought him down to earth, sharply.

All of this was foreseen in 1971 by the political savant Roger Daltry, who doubled as a vocalist for The Who. Peering into the 21st century, and anticipating the handover of power from the hapless Hollande to the oleaginous Macron, Daltry said: “Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss.”

“There’s nothing in the street
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
The parting on the left
Is now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight”


Cecilia

Thursday, 22 November, 2018

One of the oldest musical institutions in the world is the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. It was founded at the command of Pope Sixtus V in 1585, who invoked two saints: Gregory the Great, after whom Gregorian chant is named, and Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music. Her feast day is celebrated in the Catholic, Anglican and Eastern Orthodox churches on 22 November. The story goes that Cecelia was a noble lady of Rome, who, with her husband Valerian, his brother Tiburtius and a Roman soldier named Maximus, suffered martyrdom in about 230 under the Emperor Severus Alexander. She was buried in the Catacomb of Callixtus, and her remains were later transferred to the Church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere.

This portrait of Saint Ceclia is by Il Lucchese, Antonio Franchi (1638–1709). After training in Lucca with Domenico Ferrucci, he moved to Florence to work under Medici patronage. He also published a text on the occupation of painting titled, La Teorica della Pittura.

Saint Cecelia


Ye soft pipes, play on

Saturday, 17 November, 2018

“Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on.” — John Keats

Water music


The Shamrock Shore before the backstop

Wednesday, 31 October, 2018

How the Irish border backstop became Brexit’s defining issue” was the title on yesterday’s Financial Times Brexit feature by Alex Barker and Arthur Beesley. It’s a vexed matter, the backstop, and it has the potential to do significant harm to all the actors in this drama. Brussels is playing with fire here as it ignores the fact that the UK has long supported open borders with the Republic of Ireland and it continued to allow travel to and from Ireland without a passport, even when IRA terrorists were bombing British cities and murdering shoppers and commuters, police and politicians.

Whether a new border, patrolled on land by French gendarmes or by the German navy in the sea, will be set up in or around the “Shamrock Shore” in case of a “no deal” Brexit remains to be seen, but the issue highlights the never-ending debate about the rights and wrongs in the historic relationship between the islands. The Acts of Union 1800 are a case in point. The loss of the Irish Parliament was greeted with dismay in Dublin and most subsequent disasters were blamed on that pivotal legislation.

All of this was aired in April 1976 when Paul Brady sang a wonderful, unaccompanied version of The Shamrock Shore ballad in the village of Clondra in Longford. The verses are filled with poignancy and what’s especially poignant is that the person seated to Paul Brady’s right in this clip is the magisterial piper Liam O’Flynn who died of cancer on 14 March this year. Our grief at his loss remains unabated.

“John Bull, he boasts, he laughs with scorn
And he says that Irishman is born
To be always discontented for at home we cannot agree
But we’ll banish discord from our land
And in harmony like brothers stand
To demand the rights of Ireland, let us all united be
And our parliament in College Green
For to assemble, it will be seen
And happy days in Erin’s Isle we soon will have once more
And dear old Ireland soon will be
A great and glorious country
And peace and blessings soon will smile all round the Shamrock Shore”


Víkingur Ólafsson plays Bach

Thursday, 27 September, 2018

The brilliant Icelandic pianist’s new Deutsche Grammophon album is called Bach.


Sky of memory and shadow

Tuesday, 11 September, 2018

Released in 2002, The Rising was believed to have been based on Bruce Springsteen’s reflections in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terror attacks on New York City. The album’s main themes are crisis and community, faith, family and friendship.

Sky of blackness and sorrow (a dream of life)
Sky of love, sky of tears (a dream of life)
Sky of glory and sadness (a dream of life)
Sky of mercy, sky of fear (a dream of life)
Sky of memory and shadow (a dream of life)
Your burnin’ wind fills my arms tonight
Sky of longing and emptiness (a dream of life)
Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life


Leonard Bernstein, JFK and Yo-Yo Ma walk into a bar

Sunday, 26 August, 2018

#BernsteinAt100 “is the world-wide celebration of the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein, the composer, conductor, educator, musician, cultural ambassador, and humanitarian.” So declares the website devoted to the artist who was born on 25 August 1918 in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

On 29 November 1962, when the cellist Yo-Yo Ma was just 7 years old, he played at a benefit concert for an audience that included President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline. Leonard Bernstein introduced Ma to the crowd, saying: “Now, here’s a cultural image for you to ponder as you listen. A seven-year-old Chinese cellist playing old French music for his new American compatriots.”

Bernstein once said that the chief requirements of a conductor are that “he be humble before the composer; that he never interpose himself between the music and the audience; that all his efforts, however strenuous or glamorous, be made in the service of the composer’s meaning — the music itself, which, after all, is the whole reason for the conductor’s existence.”